Picnic,” a loop-the-loop bench sculpture, was one of two pieces by artist Michael Beitz (MFA ’09) included in a twisted art-installation-cum-theme-park called Dismaland. The brainchild of British graffiti artist and activist Banksy, the “bemusement park,” open for just five weeks last August in the seaside town of Weston-super-Mare, England, attracted long lines and global media attention. Its warped sense of humor mocked Disney’s cultural mix of make-believe and consumerism through the surreal work of more than 50 international artists, a decidedly “Grimm” Cinderella castle and creepily morose staffers.
Beitz, who spent a good part of his teenage years miserably working at an amusement park, tells At Buffalo, “I thought [Dismaland] was a great idea. There were a lot of serious works in the show that powerfully respond to current atrocities. Even the more humorous works touched on difficult subjects and problems.” Case in point: Banksy commissioned Beitz to create “Roll,” a scatological sculpture—half picnic table, half toilet paper—which comments on the UK’s sewage pollution problem.